EXHORDER's KYLE THOMAS: 'People Are So Happy To See' Ex-CANNIBAL CORPSE Guitarist PAT O'BRIEN 'Back In Action'
February 11, 2024
In a new interview with Metallerium, EXHORDER frontman Kyle Thomas was asked about the changes in the band's lineup in recent years. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Currently, the lineup that we have, fortunately, three of us — myself, Jason [VieBrooks, bass] and Sasha [Horn, drums] — we've been working together now since late 2017. So, we're coming up on seven years that we've been working together. So, for EXHORDER, that's a long time for anyone to work together because we broke up so many times in the past. [Laughs] It's hard to have consecutive years where people are happily working together. So, we've got Pat O'Brien [guitar, ex-CANNIBAL CORPSE] playing with us right now. Pat is definitely our guy, and Pat seems to be really happy where he is."
He continued: "The thing that's difficult working with Pat isn't a personal thing; it's just having to work around the difficulties that have come to be from him having some legal issues a few years back. So travel is a very delicate thing for him right now where there's a lot of places where we're not even sure that he can travel yet. So we've been fortunate to have people like Waldemar Sorychta and Apollo Xydias help us out with playing shows in Europe and Mexico. And Waldemar is about to join us in South America, since, Pat, unfortunately, cannot go. So we're playing in Mexico City, Central America, South America. We're really about to start hitting that.
"But, moving forward, to answer your question, Pat is the guy that we ultimately want to be playing all of our shows with us," Kyle added. "We're happy with him, he's happy with us. He toured with us in the United States, and we really, really had a great time, got along well and the people just love him. People are so happy to see Pat back in action, and that makes me happy for him."
O'Brien made his live debut with EXHORDER at the 2022 Maryland Deathfest. The gig took place three months after guitarist Marzi Montazeri left EXHORDER, explaining at the time in a statement that he "decided to no longer be a part of it."
O'Brien made headlines in December 2018 when he was arrested for burglary and assaulting a police officer while his Florida home was in flames. At the time, police said he burglarized a house and charged at a deputy with a knife.
O'Brien, who was born in Northern Kentucky, allegedly broke into a Northdale, Florida home and shouted that "the rapture is coming" before pushing a woman to the ground. He ran toward a responding deputy with a knife and was subdued with a stun gun.
Less than half a mile from where O'Brien was arrested, a fire broke out at the house he was renting, sending flames billowing into the night sky from the roof.
The owner of the home where O'Brien was arrested wouldn't go on camera but told ABC Action News he thought the guitarist was hallucinating when he spoke to him and claimed "someone was after him." The homeowner added O'Brien seemed scared and at one point even hid in his closet.
Fire marshals found a large cache of weapon, locked safes and potential explosive devices inside O'Brien's home, including 50 shotguns, 20 semiautomatic rifles, two Uzi-style firearms, 20 handguns and two flamethrowers. Authorities also discovered thousands of rounds as well as additional weapons.
O'Brien, who had been a member of CANNIBAL CORPSE for more than two decades, was released from Hillsborough County jail on December 14, 2018 after posting a $50,000 surety bond. Several days earlier, at a hearing, a judge told the now-58-year-old musician, clad in an anti-suicide vest with his hands and ankles chained together, that he would first have to pass a drug test before he would be allowed to post bail and leave jail.
In March 2021, O'Brien was sentenced to time served and five years of probation and ordered to pay $23,793.45 in restitution. He was also ordered to get drug and alcohol evaluations and render 150 hours of community service. In addition, O'Brien was ordered to abstain from using alcohol and controlled substances and to be subject to random testing.
In a June 2022 interview with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Thomas spoke about O'Brien's first appearance with EXHORDER and how the crowd reacted upon seeing the guitarist re-emerge on stage more than three years after his arrest.
"He was as apprehensive about it as anybody," Kyle said. "Having not been onstage for a while, he wondered, 'Are these people going to want me around?' We were, like, 'Come on, Pat. You're Pat O'Brien. These people want to see you.' I can appreciate how he felt about it after all he had been through. I could imagine there was an intimidation factor about it. We got up there and he said, 'I think I'm going to lay low in the back, get up and play and be done.' As soon as we got onstage and people saw him, the place went nuts. I said to the crowd, 'Hey, look, you all know Pat, right? Show Pat some love.' And they went nuts. They adore this man. Who wouldn't? If you ever met him, he's one of the nicest people you'd ever meet. He's one of the greatest at what he does, too. Then he started taking pictures with people and talking [after the gig]. He had a big smile on his face. That was so worth it. Here was a guy who needed a good break in his life and we needed help from him to get the show done. It couldn't have been any more perfect."
During an appearance on a June 2019 episode of "The Jasta Show", the podcast hosted by HATEBREED's Jamey Jasta, CANNIBAL CORPSE frontman George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher expressed his shock over O'Brien's arrest, saying: "I don't wanna speculate about what could have happened that night, but it could have been way worse — for him.
"When people were seeing [TV reports about] it — I think on the Tampa news, they were pretty good with him," he continued. "They just said he was one of the best guitar players in death metal in America, and in the world, and he's highly respected. And they didn't really trash him at all. And they showed him on TV."
Fisher went on to say that most of the CANNIBAL fans were very supportive of Pat while he was dealing with his ordeal. "In the metal world, I think in general, 95 percent [of the people], everyone was, like, 'Get well soon,'" he told "The Jasta Show". "I didn't spend too much time reading stuff online, because that's when you get people who just wanna say nasty stuff just to be nasty."
At the time, Fisher said that he and his bandmates were looking forward to O'Brien's return to CANNIBAL CORPSE. "We love him," he told "The Jasta Show". "We want him back. But when I saw him in the court with the vest, dude, I cried. Because we just got home from tour… We wish the best for him, and we're just waiting to see [what happens]. He's got a road ahead of him still with legal issues, and that's out of our hands. We support him 100 percent; we're behind him 100 percent."
In early 2021, it was announced that O'Brien had been replaced in CANNIBAL CORPSE by Erik Rutan, one of the death metal's most acclaimed guitarists who is known for his time as part of MORBID ANGEL throughout the '90s and early 2000s, as well as handling vocals/guitars for HATE ETERNAL.
Shortly after the Houston-based Montazeri announced his departure from EXHORDER, the remaining members of the band — Thomas, bassist Jason VieBrooks and drummer Sasha Horn — said that they and Marzi had been "moving in different directions" and assured fans that they would "continue to thrive"
Thomas is now the sole remaining founding member of EXHORDER, which released its debut album, "Slaughter In The Vatican", way back in 1990. In February 2020, EXHORDER parted ways with its original guitarist Vinnie LaBella, who wrote much of the material on 2019's comeback album "Mourn The Southern Skies". The remaining members of the group later issued a statement saying that they would fulfill their "touring and recording obligations for 2020 and beyond."
EXHORDER released two albums in the early 1990s through the Roadrunner label — the aforementioned "Slaughter In The Vatican" and 1992's "The Law" — before breaking up, with Kyle going on to form FLOODGATE and also briefly appearing live as the vocalist for TROUBLE, which he later joined on a full-time basis (and is still a member of).
EXHORDER, which is cited by many as the originator of the riff-heavy power-groove approach popularized by PANTERA, completed a U.S. headlining tour in late 2021 during which it performed "Slaughter In The Vatican" in its entirety.
EXHORDER will release its fourth full-length album, "Defectum Omnium", on March 8 via Nuclear Blast Records. The follow-up to "Mourn The Southern Skies" features 12 tracks and cover artwork by Travis Smith (KATATONIA, OPETH).
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